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 Turkey probes Kurdish lawmakers for meeting PKK rebels

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Turkey probes Kurdish lawmakers for meeting PKK rebels  19.8.2012  

Kurdish MPs from BDP-DTK carried out a survey in Semdinli area in Turkey's Kurdistan region. Photo: ANF
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August 19, 2012

ISTANBUL,— Prosecutors in Turkey are investigating an impromptu roadside meeting at which pro-Kurdish MPs smiled and embraced separatist militants in the southeast of the country, an act which drew strong criticism from senior political leaders on Sunday, Reuters reported.

The incident happened on Friday when Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels set up a roadblock and stopped a Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) convoy. Newspaper photos showed the MPs embracing five militants, who had rifles slung over their shoulders.

The PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list.

Kurdish politicians, including those from the BDP, are frequently prosecuted for alleged links to the PKK, but deny ties with the militants. Previous Kurdish parties similar to the BDP have been closed down for such links.

"Those images are very saddening," President Abdullah Gul told reporters on Sunday after prayers at a mosque to mark Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim feast at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

"I warn all citizens that they must distance themselves very clearly from those who are embroiled in violence, blood and terrorism," he added.
The state prosecutor's office in the eastern Kurdish province of Van has begun a preliminary investigation into the meeting in Hakkari province's Semdinli district in Turkey's Kurdistan region, under anti-terrorism laws, state-run Anatolian news agency reported.

Prosecutors would ask parliament to lift the MPs' immunity from prosecution, it added.

Friday's incident occurred when the BDP delegation, led by deputy party leader Gultan Kisanak and including eight other MPs, was travelling to a village in Semdinli.


Aysel Tugluk, an independent MP in the group, defended their actions when asked about the investigation.

"We are happy about the encounter. It was meaningful and significant for us to at least hear from them how they are fighting and in what circumstances," Tugluk said.

"They (prosecutors) can open as many investigations and impose as many penalties as they like," she told reporters.

Semdinli is a mountainous area on the border with Iran and Iraq, where the several-thousand strong militant force is based. In recent weeks it has been the scene of intense fighting between the PKK and the Turkish military.

Ankara has accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of giving the militants weapons and of allowing a PKK proxy party to exert its authority in towns in northern Syria - a move which has prompted threats of military intervention from Turkey.

The PKK has recently revived the practice of setting up roadblocks in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey to spread party propaganda and to kidnap Turkish officials. Most recently, it seized an opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy in Tunceli province, releasing him unharmed last Tuesday.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan commented on both incidents on Sunday, criticising both the kidnapped CHP deputy and the BDP for refusing to label the PKK a terrorist group.

"Why? Because the separatist terrorist organisation is the reason for their existence or their entry into parliament," Erdogan told reporters.
"They enter parliament thanks to the fear which the separatist terrorist organisation creates in society," he said.

The PKK has several times proposed peaceful solutions regarding Kurdish problem, Turkey has always refused saying that it will not negotiate with “terrorists”.

Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

The PKK wants constitutional recognition for the Kurds, regional self-governance and Kurdish-language education in schools.

PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

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